By Jonathan Olivier
“When you are racing, you are suffering. There are different obstacles or physical barriers you have to jump over—sand and mud pits. More technical courses have staircases to go over.” – Dustin Drewes, cyclocross racer from Baton Rouge
A cyclocross race isn’t your average cycling event.
“Cross,” as the cyclists who participate in races call it, involves a lot more than just pedaling.
Races take place on small outdoor courses, usually in parks with plenty of grass and open space. The course structure necessitates multiple laps during the timed race, featuring obstacles of varying difficulty that the riders must navigate through, usually by dismounting the bike and continuing on foot.
Dustin Drewes, an accomplished road cyclist, still hasn’t mastered the technical nature of maneuvering on the harsh cross courses yet.
“I always struggled with dismounting and mounting, and going over barriers,” Drewes said, “as well as general bike handling and cornering. Bike handling in grass in cross is much different than on the road. That’s also what draws me to it…it’s nice to have a change of pace and get better at something.”
Drewes took part in the Delta States Grand Prix (DSGP) cyclocross series on Sunday, which was held at Brooks Park in Baton Rouge. The USA Cycling (USAC) sanctioned race was the first of seven meetings that will be held across Louisiana and Mississippi through December.
Cross originated and is immensely popular in Europe, but has been gaining traction in the U.S., and lately, in the Baton Rouge area.
While there are specifically designed cross bikes, anyone with a mountain bike is capable of maneuvering a cross course, Drewes said, opening the door for a wide-range of entries.
“[Cross] blows the doors open to who can get in it,” he said. “You don’t have to have a certain type of handle bars, there’s less restrictions on your bicycle than any other discipline.”
Wes McWhorter, DSGP race director, organized the inaugural series in 2013 to raise awareness for cross in the area, as well as provide an outlet for cyclists to try a new sport.
“A lot of people think of road racing as sometimes hard to break into – cross sort of pulls some of that stuff out,” he said. “The atmosphere is really different. It’s fun and [spectators are] screaming and cheering. For that reason, I’m using cross as sort of a way to encourage people to get into competitive cycling.”
Winners of Sunday’s race were awarded podium prizes and all racers have the chance to participate in the upcoming meetings to accumulate points.
The winner of the final race of the series held in New Orleans in December will be crowned the district champion. Racers also have the chance to accumulate points during the series for a chance to participate in the 2015 National Cyclocross Championships in Austin, Texas in January.
McWhorter said those interested in future races can gain more information at roulercycling.com/dsgp.